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Historic Pink Lady Gets Makeover
July 2008 | by Art Olson



After four years of intensive work, careful restoration, and architecturally sensitive additions, the renovation of the house on Avenida Primavera originally built by Charles A. Canfield in 1910 has finally been completed. Known alternately as the Canfield-Wright House, Wrightland, and The Pink Lady, this Spanish Revival house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and reflects the rich history of Del Mar over the past 100 years.

Canfield, himself, was a seminal figure in the evolution of the area, and of the early oil industry in California . It is said that the events (but not the personalities) portrayed in last year's Oscar winning “There will be Blood” were largely based upon his career, a trajectory from miner to wealthy oilman. In 1892 he drilled the first successful strike in Los Angeles . Later, Canfield helped to persuade the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to switch from coal- to oil-burning locomotives. He ultimately invested his wealth in real estate, helping to establish both Beverly Hills and Del Mar. He hired the well-known Los Angeles architect, John C. Austin to design and build his residence in Del Mar, but sold it after only a couple of years.

The house, bought by the Wright family, changed little over the years, with a small addition to the main residence and outbuildings and a large retaining wall added later. By the turn of this century, the house had seen better days, and had been rented to multiple tenants and painted a bright pink – thus becoming “The Pink Lady” of latter days. In 2003 it was purchased with the intent of tearing it down and replacing it with a more modern structure. A hue and cry arose from Del Mar citizens seeking to preserve a piece of the community's unique history. After many heated discussions at City Council and Design Review Board meetings, a happy fate for the house was in serious doubt. At a critical moment, home developer Bill Davidson, who lived across the street, saved it from the wrecking ball by buying the property from the new owner. He subsequently presented his own development plans, which were judged to be in compliance with historic-preservation guidelines.

According to Pat Towner, the project supervisor, Davidson became deeply involved in guiding the historically sensitive design of the house. The 1910 structure has now been lovingly restored, preserving both its character and detail, while the new building additions have been placed and integrated to preserve the majestic presence of the original house in the neighborhood.

Neighbors have expressed both pleasure with the outcome of the project, and great relief after four years of construction in their midst. Ironically, just as the final landscaping touches were being put in place, the house on the adjacent property fell to the wrecking machine, signaling the start of another construction project in the neighborhood. Which does raise the question – will we ever be satisfied with what we already have?



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